This event marked the official launch for Commonwealth Chemistry. Baroness Scotland, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth and Vicki Gardiner, President-Elect of Commonwealth Chemistry launched Commonwealth Chemistry and introduced the event, highlighting the importance of the Commonwealth and the role that the chemical sciences can play to benefit the nations of the Commonwealth and their people. This was followed by a panel discussion addressing the topic of gender parity across the Commonwealth.

The retention and progression of women in the chemical sciences remains imbalanced compared to their male peers.

This is compounded by an even deeper problem: cultural and educational barriers rob many young girls and women of the opportunity to study chemistry and follow a career in the chemical sciences.

To mark both International Women’s Day and Commonwealth Day, this webinar, a collaboration between Commonwealth Chemistry and Chemistry World, explores ways to overcome the barriers that prevent women from fully participating in the chemical sciences.

Our speakers, Carole Mundell (international science envoy, Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office), Sarah Overington (director of the science promotion and operations division of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada [NSERC]) and Gloria Obuzor (University of Port Harcourt and Former President, Chemical Society of Nigeria) discussed:

  • perspectives on gender issues throughout the Commonwealth and cultural challenges to attract and retain women in the chemical sciences
  • gender inequality and its consequences in research culture, including gender bias in publishing
  • policies on integrating diversity and gender equality from the perspective of a funding agency

Gender equality is one of the United Nations’ seventeen Sustainable Development Goals – the pressing challenges that require urgent, global action by 2030.

BSL interpretation was provided by Rachael Dance and Steve Churchill.

Introducing Commonwealth Chemistry

Baroness Scotland

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, who took office as Secretary-General of the Commonwealth in April 2016, serves the 54 governments and 2.4 billion people of the Commonwealth.

Born in Dominica, she moved to the UK at an early age and was brought up in a large close-knit Caribbean family where she was taught the importance of hard work, education, pride in her heritage and the obligation to give back to the region of her birth and to the society in which she was raised. This ethic has guided her throughout her dynamic career in law, public service and politics.

A lawyer by profession, she became the first black and youngest woman ever to be appointed Queen’s Counsel. She is the only woman since the post was created in 1315 to be Attorney General for England and Wales, and was also Attorney General for Northern Ireland.

Appointed to the House of Lords as Baroness Scotland of Asthal in 1997, she has been Alderman for Bishopsgate Ward in the City of London since 2015.


Vicki Gardiner

Vicki Gardiner, President-Elect, Commonwealth Chemistry

Vicki Gardiner is the President-Elect of Commonwealth Chemistry and the immediate Past President of the Royal Australian Chemistry Institute (RACI).

She is a Chartered Chemist with experience in education, business development, organisational excellence, research and development and stakeholder engagement. She has held senior management positions in academia, government, SME and industry not-for-profits.

Joining us to discuss gender parity

Portrait of Carole Mundell

Speaker: Carole Mundell, international science envoy, Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

Carole Mundell was appointed chief scientific adviser at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in October 2018 and took up the role of international science envoy in January 2021. She is professor of extragalactic astronomy, head of astrophysics at the University of Bath and a Fellow of the Institute of Physics.

A world-leading scientist, she is a frequent guest speaker at international conferences. She sits on a number of strategic advisory panels for UK and international groups, is a committed communicator of science, and is an advocate for diversity in science.


Sarah Overington

Speaker: Sarah Overington, director, Science Promotions and Operations, NSERC

Sarah Overington is the Director of the Science Promotion and Operations Division of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. In this role, Sarah leads a team that delivers a wide range of programs supporting research and training, science promotion, and recognition through prizes. Sarah has worked with a variety of disciplines and programs in her career at NSERC, and has had a continued focus on integrating equity, diversity and inclusion throughout program design and delivery. Sarah holds a B Sc. (Hons) and PhD in Biology from McGill University. Preferred pronouns: She/her


Gloria Obuzor

Speaker: Gloria Obuzor, University of Port Harcourt & former president Nigeria Chemical Society

Gloria Ukalina Obuzor, a Professor of Chemistry, became the first female President of the Chemical Society of Nigeria in its 37 years of existence in 2014. Gloria is the Vice-President of the Federation of African Societies of Chemistry (FASC), and a member of national and international chemical societies. Her research interests focus on natural products and the search for unusual phytochemicals amongst the rich flora of the Niger Delta, Nigeria and the production of wine from locally available fruits. Gloria has several publications, two Nigerian patents and is a role model and a mentor to many.


Facilitating the webinar

Rachael Dance and Steve Churchill

Interpreters: Rachael Dance and Steve Churchill

Rachael Dance is training to be a fully qualified British Sign Language interpreter and graduated from Wolverhampton University with BA hons in interpreting English and BSL.

Steve Churchill has been a fully qualified interpreter for 4 years, having completed his postgraduate diploma in British Sign Language-English interpreting.


Ben Valsler

Moderator: Benjamin Valsler, digital editor, Chemistry World magazine

Ben is the digital editor of Chemistry World magazine, producing video and podcasts to accompany the magazine and website. Prior to joining the Royal Society of Chemistry, he was the producer of the award-winning Naked Scientists, making local and national radio programmes for the BBC, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Primedia in South Africa.

Official Commonwealth Chemistry logo, (Federation of Chemical Sciences Societies)

Commonwealth Chemistry – the Federation of Commonwealth Chemical Societies. Bound together in the spirit of the Commonwealth, we champion equal opportunity for all, drive innovation, and promote excellence in the chemical sciences for the benefit of the Commonwealth nations and their people.

Chemistry is the universal language that unites us. We celebrate and elevate the role and practice of the chemical sciences, to society and policymakers across the Commonwealth.